Foley, AL Wills and Probate Attorneys
Planning for your estate and your loved ones is one of the most important things you can do. And while it can be difficult to think about a future where you’re no longer around, there is peace of mind in knowing that your affairs are in order.
At the law office of Wilkins, Bankester, Biles & Wynne, PA, our experienced Foley, AL wills and probate lawyers can provide legal guidance and support as you create a will or navigate the probate process. To learn more about wills, probate, and other elements of an estate plan, reach out to our law firm directly today.
What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document that outlines one’s wishes for their property at the time of their death. Usually, a will is one document that’s part of a broader collection of documents that form an estate plan, including a living will, trust, and power of attorney. A will is used to tell the court what you want to happen to your property at the time of your death, as well as name a guardian for any minor children.
Having a will is important for a few reasons. First, many people take comfort in knowing that their estate will be distributed per their wishes at the time of their death. A will is also helpful for mitigating conflict between surviving loved ones, who may be unsure how an estate should be divided or what the wishes are of the deceased.
One of the most important reasons to have a will, is that if you do not have a will, then your estate will pass intestate at the time that you die. This means that rather than being distributed per your wishes, your assets will be divided per Alabama’s intestacy laws.
These laws hold that if you die with children but no spouse, your children will inherit everything; if you die with a spouse but no children or parents, your spouse will get everything; and that if you die with children and a spouse, your spouse will inherit the first $50,000 of your estate, plus half of the remaining balance—your children will get everything else.
So, if you wanted to leave specific items to specific people, donate money to a charity, name a guardian for minor children (or pets), or carry out any other wishes with your property that do not align with state intestacy laws, you won’t be able to do this if you don’t have a will.
What Included in a Will?
A last will and testament can be used to do the following:
- State how your belongings should be distributed
- Name an executor of the estate (the person who will be responsible for administering your estate per the terms of your will)
- Direct assets to a charity
- Name a guardian who should take care of your minor children in the event of your death
- Leave specific assets or properties, including a business, to specific people
Note that a will cannot be used to provide instructions about your end-of-life care or assign someone else the right to make legal decisions on your behalf. The documents that do this are an advanced directive and a power of attorney—our lawyers recommend that you include these documents as part of your estate plan.
Forming a Will in Alabama
Forming a will in Foley, AL is fairly simple. First, you should take some time to inventory your property and make a decision about who you want to inherit certain property types. Then, choose an executor to manage your estate and a guardian for your minor children. Once you’re ready to put it all in writing, you should work with a skilled wills and probate attorney who can help you to create a draft of your will and explain the different provisions of your will that are included.
After your will has been drafted, review it with your attorney to make sure that it covers everything that’s important to you. Once you’re ready to finalize your will, you will need to sign it in front of a witness.
One of the advantages of creating a will now, even if you don’t expect to die anytime soon, is that wills can be amended over the years as your circumstances change. For example, many people divorce and remarry, have additional children, or experience other major changes in their lives. When this happens, it is definitely a good idea to revisit the provisions of your will to determine if any amendments would be necessary.
The Probate Process: An Overview
Wills go hand-in-hand with the probate process in Alabama—the legal process of proving a will before the court and distributing your estate. When a person dies in Alabama, their estate will pass through probate in most cases. (Note, if the value of the estate is less than $25,000, the estate can pass through small estate probate, which is a streamlined and simplified probate procedure). Here’s a brief overview of what happens during the probate process:
- The executor of the estate (named in the decedent’s will or appointed by the court) files the deceased’s will with the probate court;
- The will must be proved—sometimes, parties will challenge the validity of the will;
- The executor publishes a notice of the estate—the purpose of this is to notify any of the decedent’s creditors and errors of the death/probate process;
- The estate is inventoried and property is appraised;
- The executor files all taxes owed by the estate and pays off any remaining debts to creditors; and
- All remaining assets after debts have been paid will be distributed to beneficiaries named in the will, or per intestacy laws if the decedent has no will.
Services Offered by Our Wills and Probate Attorneys
Our Foley will and probate lawyers work with individuals and families to create wills and other estate planning documents that offer a sense of security about the future. In addition to creating and amending wills, we also provide representation to executors, beneficiaries, and family members during the probate process. We can represent you in proving or challenging a will, navigating the probate process, seeking assets from a deceased’s estate, and more.
Having an attorney on your side when you’re thinking about the future or tasked with probating a loved one’s estate is an important resource. To learn more about our wills and probate attorneys in Foley and how we can help you, please reach out to us online or by phone to schedule a consultation at your convenience.